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Soy Foods in the Sweet Spot

By Linda Funk

Current consumer attitudes about healthful eating have the potential to transform bakeries, confections, sweet snacks, and new beverage product categories. A shift away from sugary foods, coupled with the quest for more healthful snacks, creates new opportunities for soy foods. In a recent survey, 51% of consumers reported they had switched to high protein snacks.[1] Soy foods and beverages produced with sustainable U.S. Soy are poised to ride the expanding wave of plant protein products. The trend is propelled by health and environmental concerns. From 2022 to 2026, snack sales are projected to show higher growth rates, with savory snacks expected to show the highest CAGR (compound annual growth rate).[2]

 As eating styles evolve, so, too, do consumer preferences. The global bakery products market is expected to grow from $416.36 billion in 2021 to $590.54 billion by 2028, rising at a CAGR of 5.12%. While Europe retains the largest bakery products market share, the Asia Pacific market is projected to experience significant growth. The healthy living trend in Japan and China is expected to raise the demand for reduced sugar and lower carb bread, cakes and pastries.[3] This trend has the potential of boosting demand for soy baking ingredients such as upcycled okara flour (made from soybean pulp) that offers rich fiber composition and low production costs.[4]

Other sweet product categories offer opportunities for soy food innovators. A century after the first U.S. patent was issued in 1922 for soy ice cream (made with tofu, sweetener and flavoring),[5] world consumers have discovered plant-based ice creams. In Latin America, for example, the plant-based ice cream market size is anticipated to experience a 9.32% CAGR from 2021 to 2027 to reach $0.39 billion.[6] Soy milk-based ice cream is currently the largest market segment of plant-based ice cream in Latin America, attributed to soy’s availability and price compared to other plant-based milks.[7] In mature markets like the U.K. and Canada, dairy-free chocolate confectionery product launches also have gained ground.[8]

 Many online shoppers buy new snack products from direct-to-consumer vendors.[9] Consumers can find targeted product messaging about attributes such as environmental health, mood-boosting food and beverages, or foods that may provide gut health benefits. Currently, 42% of U.S. online shoppers say they would use technology to simplify their online browsing or product search process[10] to find products that reflect their priorities. With the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), U.S. soybean growers employ sustainable practices that address environmental concerns.

Experiential Eating

            Adventurous global consumers are demonstrating their fondness for bold flavors, with 74% wanting to try new flavors from around the world. Also, when seeking out new flavor profiles, they seek the experience of engaging with playful, fun brands.[11] Edamame in the pod works as a convenient snack, a shareable appetizer or a simple side dish that takes on the flavors of world cuisines. One serving size of frozen unprepared edamame provides 9.2 grams of protein.

Drinking to Your Health

New beverage product options are expected to offer benefits such as energy or feature lower caffeine or alcohol-free experiences. For all adult age groups in the U.S., energy is the most sought-after food benefit. Among U.S. Gen Z consumers who made a dietary change in 2022, lowering their stress was a motivator, with 33% consuming foods and beverages that are supposed to reduce stress. Also, 24% said they drank less alcohol.[13]  Soy milk-based beverages should appeal to consumers who want to experiment with a plant-based twist on creamy alcohol-free cocktails, caffeine-free morning beverages or cool summery drinks. In the U.S., consumers can buy direct-to-consumer beverages such as soymilk in cans and shelf-stable packaged soy milk products like chocolate cappuccinos, soy milk combined with juice, or soy milk blended with specialty tea.

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